By Allyson Kingsley
Instrumental music is a difficult market, to say the least. For the vast majority of the population, instrumental music sounds incomplete and lacking that human touch in a way that only the human voice can provide. In the rock and metal genre in particular, guitar-led instrumental music can often come across as showing off how virtuosic the guitarist is without any care given to musical creation and taste in general. There are a few exceptions to this rule with Steve Vai coming to mind. Picture it, 1986 and I’m camped out in front of MTV (remember the days when they actually played videos?). “Yankee Rose” by David Lee Roth comes on and I am thoroughly enraptured as Steve Vai makes his guitar talk. It took many more years later to fully appreciate his instrumental work as well as multiple others. Now we come to Paul Gilbert, co-founder of Mr Big and also guitarist for Racer X. With his latest solo instrumental album Behold Electric Guitar, he makes his guitar do the talking. Fucking phenomenal.
Paul Gilbert delivers a strong example of how creativity and passion can transcend the genre labels that some of us have become so attached to, and how our inability to stick everything in a neat box need not be a problem. With a fierce love of jazz and blues heard strongly on this album, he truly encapsulates the eclectic world of the electric guitar. Check out “Blues For a Rabbit” and “A Snake Bit My Toe”.
Along with the snarky song titles, he apparently writes lyrics to his songs and then transforms them into these expansive and exquisite structures. No need for a lead vocalist as he allows his guitar to “sing” the melodies for him. Check out his take on a classic nursery rhyme “Everywhere That Mary Went”; how it is transformed into something that thoroughly rocks!
As a drum lover I can appreciate “Every Snare Drum” which celebrates real life drummers. It is slowly becoming a lost art thanks to computer programming drum tracks which fail horribly to capture the passion and verve of a human drummer. Probably my favorite on this album.
Check out the funky rhythms on “A Herd of Turtles” which he originated as a poem. About midway through, we hear his spoken words and it adds an almost bohemian factor.
“Things Can Walk to You”:
I always encourage people to give the unknown a chance even just for an album or two. If anything, you may learn something new about yourself in the process.